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Bulgarian report Bulgarian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-09-18 09:37:32
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Bulgaria sells its tobacco monopoly to company controlled by Russia’s VTBank

Bulgaria says it has struck a deal to sell its tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac Holding to a company controlled by VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, for €100.1 million ($136.8 million). The government’s Privatization Agency said in a statement Tuesday that Austrian-registered BT Invest has won the tender to buy a 79.8 percent stake in the tobacco company.

The buyer is committed to keeping its stake for the next five years and maintain the number of employees at 2,400 over the next three years. It also committed to buying 5,000 tons a year of locally grown tobacco over the next five years. The deal is important for the country as it struggles with debt. Five previous attempts to sell the company had failed over claims of procedural flaws.


PM orders freeze of millions of EU funds for scandal-hit Sliven

About 60 million leva in European Union funding for eight projects in the town of Sliven has been suspended on the orders of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov after Cabinet ministers and the European Commission expressed concerns about alleged irregularities. However, Borissov said that unless wrongdoing was proven, incumbent mayor Yordan Lechkov would remain ruling party GERB's candidate for re-election in Bulgaria's October 23 2011 municipal elections.

Borissov said on September 14 that in the past more than a month, four to five Cabinet ministers had spoken to him about their concerns about what was going on in the town. He said that those who had spoken to him included then-regional development minister Rossen Plevneliev, now GERB's candidate for president, Lilyana Pavlova, then deputy minister of regional development, promoted after Plevneliev became a presidential candidate, and Tomislav Donchev, Bulgaria's minister in charge of the management of EU funds.

They had told him about continuing problems in Sliven, Borissov said. The European Commission is said to have been concerned about the way in which contractors were appointed to projects. "I told them to freeze the money until the whole situation in Sliven had been clarified," Borissov said. Prosecutors were investigating and unless allegations were proven, Lechkov remained GERB's mayoral candidate.


Soviet army monument 'vandals' speak out

The group of street artists that painted the bronze figures of Soviet soldiers in downtown Sofia to represent various US pop culture characters has spoken out for the first time. A total of nine street artists participated in the makeover of the figures that turned them into The Joker, Wolverine, Santa, Superman, Ronald McDonald, Captain America, Robin, and Wonder Woman, among others on June 18, it has been revealed. The controversial work of art was initially attributed to a single artist, who was quickly called "The Bulgarian Banksy" by Western media. As it turned out, it was the work of a group that has chosen to name itself "Creative Destruction".

The Soviet flag waved by the soldiers was painted to become a US flag, while a big inscription added by the artist below the soldier statues said, "Rolling with the time". The monument was cleaned overnight Tuesday by the forum "Bulgaria-Russia," hours before the time officially announced for the media. In their first interview, the street artists, who still remain anonymous, have explained their actions with what they perceive as the constant swinging of Bulgaria's political orientation.

"While the Soviet Union was in power, Bulgarians tried to be the best communists. Now, when we are living in democracy, we are trying to be Americans," a representative of the group has explained, as cited by the One magazine. The artists have further declared they are against the popular opinion that the Soviet Army monument should be destructed and that they did not mean to vandalize it. However, they have pointed out that it no longer represents the Soviet army as it once used to, adding that the area around it is now a gathering place for Sofia's subculture, including young artists. The group's members are aged between 17 and 21.

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